Thursday, February 11, 2010

Seven Deadly Underground Sins

1 - Playing a Game of Personal Space Invaders

Like all mass transit systems, the Underground gets crammed during the time known as Rush Hour, which is a mystical period lasting roughly from around the time of the first train until the last one.
This makes it a great place to hang out if you like unwanted physical contact with strangers of questionable sanity or personal hygiene. The majority, of course, do their best to avoid grinding against their fellow passengers, although well-fit girls iz welcome to ignore this rule, innit.
But there are certain individuals (twats) who for whatever reason (they're twats) will assume extremely close proximity to my person even on an uncrowded carriage where there's ample space elsewhere.
For me, this usually takes the shape of a bloke who stands at point blank range with his back to me, then slowly reverses into my face until I am able to discern individual flakes of dandruff.
I have learned to be prepared for such encounters, and when this happens I like to 'read' a chunky book with the sharp end pointing at the offender, so that as they inch closer, it slowly works its way into the spinal column. Once sufficient discomfort is inflicted, he'll usually move away, and won't really have any right to complain, as I was just standing there reading, minding my business. Psychopaths may wish to enhance their passive aggression with a bookmark made out of a Stanley blade.

2 - Premature Entraination
This is the practice of frantically bum-rushing the train as soon as the doors open, heedless of people trying to get off. Before you consider doing this, try to remember three things:

1: people aren't ghosts and you can't walk through them,
2: the doors have JUST opened and aren't going to suddenly crush you, and
3: Fuck you.

3 - Blocking the Escalator
Usually a symptom of cluelessness, being German, or just common douchebaggery, but whatever the reason, some people just can't help but cock-block commuters from getting where they want to go. It happens anywhere there's a flow of people, from ticket barriers to station entrances. But I am choosing to direct the microscope of hatred at the most virulent strain of this behaviour - the dreaded Lovecraftean horror known only as The Stander on the Left.
Now, London Underground's escalators are well equipped with signs explaining that you're meant to stand on the right side so that people in a hurry can scuttle down the left. For the illiterate, there are frequent audio announcements to the effect of "stand on the arsing RIGHT, genius", so there is really no justification for such ignorance. Conversely, there is every justification for barging past, over, and in some cases through these pests.
My approach is a combo of polite words and savage violence. Utter a cordial "excuse me", after which the subject has a grace period of 4 miliseconds to get out of the way before you huff and batter your way past them like a physically aroused Boris Johnson.
Of course, this works best if you're a seven foot tall, perpetually laughing barbarian like what I am, but what to do if you're a skinny little hipster type with bollock-hugging jeans, ironic haircut and thick-rimmed pretend glasses that you don't actually need?
Well, I hate you, but even you can emerge victorious if you're on the way down the escalator. The moment you see your victim, increase speed, build momentum and be sure to stomp loudly on the metal steps so they can hear their swiftly approaching doom bearing down on them like nemesis. You might reconsider this tactic if the person is a small child. Don't. That's the next generation of escalator-blocking scum right there, you know what you have to do!

You'd be amazed how unreasonable the father was when I explained this to him.

4 - Pressing the Door Button
Doing this just marks you out as a newbie who hasn't twigged that the doors open by themselves. Expect to be excluded from all the cool trains.

5 - Charging At Closing Train Doors
Horrified at the prospect of waiting another two minutes until the next train, some Kamikaze commuters mimic Indiana Jones and make a lunge for the door, though you don't see Indiana Jones getting hilariously wedged in and immediately losing his temper. The driver, who takes his laughs wherever he can get them, will enjoy a few seconds' fun crushing the victim in the door before reluctantly releasing them and chalking up another kill.
Such victims will usually be helped on board by good samaritans pulling the doors apart, and you could see this as an example of the essential decency of the average Londoner. However, you'd be wrong. It is an example of moral weakness. If you're not actively pushing the bastard back out again, you're part of the problem.

6 - Staging 'Tubestock'
Busking is now regulated on the Underground, and instead of being turfed out by the Tube's knuckleheads, performers go through an audition process (Charing X Factor! Bam!) and have to stick to designated busking areas. These are deeply magical, and will transform the busker into a farm animal if they stray outside the protective circle. Consequently, the modern Underground musician is relatively listenable and unobtrusive. Fair play to them.
However, there remain a hard core of dedicated musical annoyances who flaut the rules, plying their trade on the trains themselves. By default, these are the ones too crap or insane to pass the proper vetting process, and their MO is to move through the train, playing one song per carriage per station, cajoling innocent passengers to drop coin into their Cafe Nero cup so that they'll go away.
I recently had an encounter with an American hippy student type who, having apparently time-travelled from some far-off age when hippies were relevant, boarded my very-crowded train, lightly injured several passengers while removing his huge guitar from its case, then proceeded to play a wearisome protest song - upon which, wonderfully, everyone stuck their earphones in. A unanimous fuck-you moment that made me proud to be English, though I was a bit gutted when he didn't actually ask anyone for money. Aww, the trust fund baby with the white-bloke dreadlocks just wanted to give the gift of music!

7 - Being Me
I flatten people on the escalator, stab them with books, push them off trains, crush the spirits of young musicians, and worse. Take my advice - if you see me on a train, wait for the next one.